After a string of bans on plastic items over the last few years, are single-use hotel toiletries next to go?
In California, a proposed bill that would ban small plastic bottles containing personal care products in hotels is currently making its way through the state legislature. If passed, the bill would come into effect as early as 2023 for hotels with 50 rooms or more. Lodging establishments with less than 50 rooms would have until 2024 to fully replace small plastic toiletries.
This is not an entirely new concept in the hotel industry. Last year, InterContinental Hotels Group and Marriott International both began to replace single-use plastic toiletries with larger pump containers that fasten to the wall. Marriott rolled out these changes in as many as 450 properties under its management and specifically focused on properties that cater to business travelers.
The effort to minimize single-use plastics has significantly increased over the last few years with California leading the charge.
In 2014, California became the first state to enact a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at large retail stores. They also imposed a ten-cent minimum charge on recycled paper bags and reusable plastic bags at specified locations. This year, New York followed suit with a similar statewide mandate. Across the U.S., several smaller counties and cities have adopted similar legislation.
Plastic straws have also received a lot of attention from legislators. In 2018, Seattle became the first U.S. city to entirely ban the use of plastic straws.
The cultural shift away from the use of disposable plastic products comes at an important time. North America, defined as Bermuda, Canada, and the United States by the World Bank, is estimated to have produced about 35 million tons of plastic waste in 2016, making it the third-largest producer of worldwide plastic waste that year.
Disposable plastic products often end up in the ocean. The United Nations estimated as much as 80% of floating trash is plastic, resulting in huge negative implications for wildlife. Approximately 1 million marine birds and 100,000 marine animals die each year due to plastic ingestion.
Still, eliminating small plastic toiletries from hotels will be a significant cultural shift for consumers who are accustomed to expecting such services when they travel. Many consumers rely on provided toiletries and enjoy collecting them following a trip.
In addition, small plastic toiletries are also often collected by homeless shelters and similar organizations to distribute to people in need.
However, the benefits of this ban seem to far outweigh any inconvenience to the consumer. According to Lodging magazine, Marriott estimates that a single property with about 140 rooms stands to reduce its plastic consumption by 250 pounds of plastic a year — or by 23,000 plastic bottles.
The bill's author, Assemblyman Ash Kalra hopes his fellow legislators can also see the significant impact this bill stands to make.
Kalra told CALmatters, “I do hope my colleagues view this as a common-sense piece of legislation that once again puts us forward as leaders when it comes to trying to reduce our plastic consumption and leaders on issues of the environment.”